LINGUIST List 31.2351

Wed Jul 22 2020

Diss: English; Hebrew; Applied Linguistics: Author: Miri Yochanna: '' Narrative Abilities in English-Hebrew Bilingual Preschool Children''

Editor for this issue: Sarah Robinson <srobinsonlinguistlist.org>



Date: 02-Jul-2020
From: Miri Yochanna <mirismkbgmail.com>
Subject: Narrative Abilities in English-Hebrew Bilingual Preschool Children
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Institution: Bar-Ilan University
Program: Department of English Literature and Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2014

Author: Miri Yochanna

Dissertation Title: Narrative Abilities in English-Hebrew Bilingual Preschool Children

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            Hebrew (heb)

Dissertation Director:
Joel Walters

Dissertation Abstract:

Bilingual preschool children are able to produce narratives that include structural features needed to create a story in both their languages. Whether simultaneous (acquiring two languages at home) or sequential (acquiring one language at home and another outside the home), they have access to both languages and are able to make use of both lexicons. How these two lexicons serve bilingual children when producing a narrative and how the children make use of them are two aspects of lexis in narrative ability that this research looks into. The study examines the quantity and diversity of the lexis needed to tell stories in both their languages, and how that lexis is deployed in different structural components of their narratives.


The results showed that the English-Hebrew bilingual preschool children investigated were able to produce well-formed narratives in both languages with diverse lexis. The familiar stories elicited longer, more detailed narratives than the unfamiliar stories.Children’s lexical knowledge in both languages was diverse, enabling the inclusion of a variety of words in their storytelling. Lexical transfer was found in both the familiar and the unfamiliar stories. However, there was more lexical transfer in the familiar stories than in the unfamiliar stories. Much of the codeswitching and code-interference observed were in the English stories, with Hebrew influencing the language production.

Bilingual children’s lexicon includes a variety of lexical features in both languages: number of words, number of different words and word types, use of general purpose and story specific content words and descriptors. These features, especially lexical diversity (number of different words) and lexical density (number of different content words) are indicators of abilities to produce appropriate language in a variety of contexts (in this case, the different story grammar components).


Bilingual phenomena – lexical transfer, codeswitching and code interference – are indicators of language dominance and lexical availability. The bilingual preschooler’s lexicon exhibits instances of lexical codeswitching and code-interference. Lexical access activates these bilingual phenomena and indicates what types of lexical items may be prone to codeswitching and code-interference.




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